2018: The Numbers Don't Lie 🚨
A lot happened in WWE in 2018. The last 12 months saw several big firsts for the women's division, the minting of two title belts, and the birth of a whole new brand in NXT UK.
And through it all, I beavered away on a little Google Sheet, trying to keep track of all the wins, losses, comings and goings. I actually started it as a catalyst to help me get back into wrestling - I took several months off between WrestleMania 33 and the Royal Rumble 2018 after years of waning interest. And I thought I’d be better able to take in the wider roster by turning it all into 1s and 0s, keeping me up to date with Raw and Smackdown between PPVs, and leaving me free to enjoy the goodness of NXT and 205 Live undisturbed.
Thankfully, the system worked, and the healthy bi-product is I now have a boat load of statistics that make for pretty interesting reading! I’ve previously broken the stats down in greater detail on my website, Foul Entertainment, and the full spreadsheet is available on Google Sheets to anyone interested, but today Kefin and Jo have let me give the How2Universe the headlines - the winners, the losers, and everything in between.
When I sat down to dissect the stats on New Year’s Day (it’s basically “International Do Nothing Day”, and I’d waited a year for this!), two men kept popping up no matter how I chose to interpret things.
Finn Balor has by far the most accolades, despite him having a relatively unimportant year storyline wise. He had the most matches (65), including the most on Raw (46). This is also mirrored in the win records, where Finn also has the most on Raw (27) and overall (36). However, this high amount of matches means he also has the highest amount of losses on Raw (19) and second most overall (28).
Right on Finn’s heels was Seth Rollins. He brought home the silver medal for Raw wins (25), Raw matches (39), and overall matches (55). He had a few more feathers in his cap, but we’ll get to them later.
Someone else who enjoyed a banner year was unsurprisingly Ronda Rousey. She had the most PPV wins overall (7), the best win record on Raw (8 wins, 0 losses) and was one of only 7 wrestlers to have a 100% win record for the year, alongside the likes of War Raider’s Rowe, Matt Riddle, and Greatest Wrestler Under God’s Hot Sun™ Dave Mastiff (he wears the Black Country flag on his knee pads, that’s a BIG deal for me).
Elsewhere, Becky Lynch took home the most wins on Smackdown (17), beating out AJ Styles by one. Her brand supremacy was matched by Cedric Alexander on 205 Live (16 wins), Lars Sullivan on NXT (10 wins) and both Jordan Devlin and Zack Gibson on NXT UK (7 wins). Bayley was the most featured female superstar (49 matches), and Asuka had the most overall wins in the women’s division (35, tied with Braun Strowman for 2nd place overall behind Balor).
But spare a thought for The Miz, who endured the most overall losses with 31. And Curt Hawkins, who sits atop the 33 strong list of roster members with 0 wins all year with his unmatched 27 losses.
In total, WWE used 231 contracted wrestlers across its 5 brands in 2018, split 73% male / 27% female. Of that, only 37 wrestlers managed to work at least one match a month across the year, ranging from the obvious candidates like Seth and Finn, through the mainstays of Charlotte Flair, Dolph Ziggler and Shinsuke Nakamura, to the more obscure like Mandy Rose and Hideo Itami.
Others found themselves on the opposite side of the scale, with 18 wrestlers wrestling a single match in one of the twelve months. Reasons ranged from non-wrestling talent appearing in feuds (Stephanie McMahon, Drake Maverick), one-off NXT appearances (Dan Matha and Babatunde at the Greatest Royal Rumble, Jessie Eleban and MJ Jenkins in the Mae Young Classic), ill-advised retirement returns (Shawn Michaels, yes it happened no matter what you may wish), and injury (Jason Jordan, Samir Singh).
Speaking of injuries, Jason Jordan lost the most months of the year to injury, with his neck injury keeping him sidelined since January. Similarly long injury absences include the 7 months Bobby Fish, Dean Ambrose and Epico Colon missed, and the 8 months Tamina, Riddick Moss and Tino Sabbatelli lost.
In terms of comings and goings, 2018 saw a massive 54 new additions join the roster. More than half of these can be attributed to NXT UK, so we may not see this number bettered until they add NXT Mexico, NXT Japan, NXT Qatar, NXT Angola, NXT Vatican, or NXT Outer Moons of Jupiter in the future. Of this number, 6 were returning superstars - Bobby Lashley, James Ellsworth, Maria Kanellis and Rey Mysterio on the main roster, EC3 on NXT, and Shawn Michaels in that weird non-canon PPV WWE tried in the Saudi Arabian market for some reason.
These 6 returns were mirrored by 6 departures. Half of these came from also-rans in NXT, but the three main roster ejections were pretty high profile. At least Big Cass retained some modicum of respect after he was let go, which is a lot more than can be said for his fellow departees Enzo Amore and James Ellsworth post-WWE.
A surprisingly high 58 men and women, or 25% of the overall roster, held a title in 2018. The actual number was 59, but Nicholas wasn’t included as he wasn’t under contract. Oh, and 12 years old. That does mean however he has held more gold in WWE than Hall of Famers Junkyard Dog, Jake Roberts, Harley Race and Jim Duggan combined.
This was another category where Seth Rollins did well. He racked up the most amount of titles challenges (7), and the most individual title reigns thanks to 2 runs each with the Intercontinental and Raw Tag Team Titles. His efforts with the belt in particular also made the Intercontinental Title the most contested overall, with 21 title defences spread across 6 wrestlers.
But here, Seth is outshone by AJ Styles. He has the honour of having the most title defences in 2018 (13), and the second longest reign within the year with 316 days spent as WWE Champion, only better by Pete Dunne’s end to end reign as WWE UK Champion. On the flip side, Brock Lesnar may have had the third longest reign (231 days) during his first run with the Universal title, but his second reign involved no title defences (equalling Rusev’s US Title reign and Strowman and Nicholas’s Raw Tag Team Title reign) and resulted in the Universal title having the fewest overall defences for a full-time title (7). Only the NXT UK Women’s Title (2) and NXT North American Title (5) can better that number, but both were created in 2018.
The WrestleMania publicity stunt win for Strowman and Nicholas pops up again when looking at the shortest title reigns, with it only lasting a day. Hot on their heels is another tag team title reign, this time Tyler Bate and Trent Seven’s 2 day run with the NXT Tag Team Titles. This does however mean they had by far the best average defences vs title length ratio (yay?), with their one defence every two days average miles away from the worst average, which belongs to Tommaso Ciampa, who only defended his NXT Title once every 83 days.
And that will do it! As I said, this is just a small chunk of the data I gathered over the course of 2018. If you want to get into Big Data analysis (you totally should and remember who gave you the idea when you’re making the big bucks), this represents a hell of a little project to pick through, as I imagine there are a thousand weird quirks and trends that even I haven’t picked up on.
If you’d like to see more, you can find more in-depth articles over at Foul Entertainment, where you’ll also find film and gaming podcasts and articles from me and my co-host, Michael Owen (unfortunately no, it isn’t the footballer, but he did once appear on Channel 4’s “Job Interview”, so he’s at least been on TV). And you can find more well-researched-yet-ill-advised opinions on wrestling over on Twitter - @TheGutteridge.